By John Brady, Flagship Olympia Foundation
Board of Directors President
The year 2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The first soldier buried in the Tomb served in World War I. The USS Olympia, a former Navy cruiser, brought the remains of the World War I Unknown Soldier home from Europe. His burial took place at Arlington National Cemetery on November 11, 1921. Rabbi Morris Samuel Lazaron is one of the four chaplains who participated in the service.
Two months after the United States entered World War I in April 1917, Rabbi Lazaron filled out a military registration card. The card, which can be found in the National Archives, notes Lazaron was working as a rabbi in Baltimore, Maryland at the time and supporting his wife, baby, and parents.
Additional information about Rabbi Lazaron can be found on the American Jewish Archives website. Lazaron served as a chaplain in the U.S. Army Officer’s Reserve Corps from 1917 until 1953. He was one of four military chaplains officiating at the burial of the World War I Unknown Soldier in 1921. Rabbi Lazaron died in London, England on June 5, 1979.
The Flagship Olympia Foundation is helping to plan commemoration events for 2021. We have researched Rabbi Lazaron as part of this effort. However, we want to learn more about the men who brought the World War I Unknown Soldier home from Europe. We also want to make sure the families of these service members are invited to commemoration events.
The 1921 USS Olympia crew list is located at the National Archives. We’re comparing the names on this list to information included in the Ancestry.com website. Some of the individuals and their families are easier to find because they have distinctive names. Others are not because they have the same names as several others who served during World War I.
The Flagship Olympia Foundation would appreciate the assistance of JWV members in identifying the 1921 USS Olympia crew. An electronic copy of the list is posted on our website. Are any of the men on the list your great-grandfather, grandfather, or great-uncle? If so, do you have photos or diaries about their service aboard the USS Olympia in 1921 that you would be willing to share with us?
Last year, the granddaughter of one of the members of the 1921 crew reached out to us. She shared her grandfather’s story and we now have it on our website. We’d like to do the same with other crew members. They brought home a son, grandson, nephew, and father. His name is known to no one, but his sacrifice is known to all.
Photo: Detroit Publishing Co, P., Hart, E. H., photographer. U.S.S. Olympia. , None. [Between 1895 and 1901] [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2016818457/.
Volume 74. Number 1. 2020